LIMBO - Valve
Save big on a variety of games developed in Denmark for this week's Midweek Madness, the Games From Denmark Sale!*

Including classics like Hitman and LIMBO, and new favorites like Deep Rock Galactic and A Hat In Time!









*Discounts end Friday at 10AM Pacific Time
AudioSurf

Ninja Mono, Audiosurf's most popular mode, poses for a yearbook photo. Art by Michael Fitzhywel

A telling difference between today's indie games scene and that of 10 years ago is how excited Dylan Fitterer was to hear his game was going to be on Steam. 

Audiosurf had just been nominated for three IGF awards in the categories of Technical Excellence, Excellence in Audio, and the Seamus McNally Grand Prize. As Dylan tells it, "Then I got a call from Jason Holtman at Valve who said, 'Hey, you want to sell this on Steam?' That blew me away. That was crazy to get an offer like that."

Audiosurf went on to win the audio category as well as the audience vote, but the bigger prize was that it became February 2008's top seller on Steam, both by number of copies sold and revenue, despite being an indie rhythm game that cost 10 bucks. It eventually sold over a million copies. Of course since this was 2008, it was one of only five games released on Steam that month.

Best Game Ever Dot Com 

Getting to that point was a road as bumpy as any of the rollercoaster levels Audiosurf makes out of the music you feed it. Like a lot of designers, Dylan's first game ideas were way beyond his capabilities. "I was trying to build the biggest videogame possible, that incorporated everything," he says. "My first game I was working on was like Magic: The Gathering meets first-person shooter meets something else. Had everything in it, the one game that was all games. That was what I figured I'd just build, by myself."

After a couple of years hitting his head against that wall he changed tack and went as far in the other direction as possible. From then on he only worked on games that could be finished in a week. "What I did is I launched this website called bestgameever.com and put up this promise that I'm gonna release a new game every Friday just to see if I could actually finish some things. And one of the things that I finished on there was called Tune Racer."

The original Tune Racer, which can still be found on archive.org

Tune Racer auto-detected whichever CD was in your drive at the time—this was 14 years ago, so of course you had CDs near at hand—and then matched the tempo of that music to a simple game about a car racing along a tube, overtaking other cars. Two sequels followed, tweaking the idea so that cars had to be dodged around instead of just overtaken (an idea that would return as Audiosurf 2's Dusk skin). 

There was clearly something to the idea, something that kept drawing Dylan back. When he eventually decided it was time to invest more than a week in one of his concepts, to monetize one of those bestgameever.com prototypes, it was Tune Racer he turned to. He figured he could turn around a deluxe version in "like a month." 

Spoiler: it took longer than a month.

"You should probably usability test your game" 

Dylan wasn't alone. His wife Elizabeth, who had a day job at Microsoft, helped him over the course of what turned out to be several years of work. The two encountered plenty of dead ends along the way. They even tried to give Audiosurf a plot for a while, though he doesn't recall the details. "My wife and I worked on a story, and I don't remember if the motivation was like as an extended tutorial, or if it was just this lack of confidence that a game with no story would be compelling for people," he recalls. "I'm not sure. It didn't come together. It wasn't a good idea."

That is so hard. Watching people play your game that you think is almost there and you discover that you're not even close.

Dylan Fitterer

What was a good idea was letting people use their own mp3s. Rhythm games with original scores have a hurdle to get over because players need to get used to the music before they can tap along with it, and even something like Rock Band can fall flat with players who don't listen to the bands it favors. Audiosurf's algorithm matches the curves of the track, the speed of your craft, and the placement of blocks to elements of the songs you choose, songs you already love. It transforms your mp3 collection into an explorable space.

"My absolute favorite thing was to play this track from OCRemix in the game's Mono mode. The simplicity of Mono mode and the intensity of the track made for a great flow experience."—Ben Prunty, composer of FTL and Into the Breach

The big beat

But for most of Audiosurf's development, the placement of blocks wasn't in sync with the beat. "Those were basically random," Dylan admits. "I had convinced myself that didn't really matter. The track was shaped to the music and you just had these random patterns and you could maybe see the music in the patterns if you look hard enough or something. It made sense to me but Elizabeth, my wife, finally convinced me that was not a good idea." 

The extra effort was worth it, although even then it wasn't a game that clicked with everybody. Some people sat down to play and don't feel the connection between the game and the song, no matter what music they choose. There just seems to be something in the way people are wired that determines whether it works for them or not. "We noticed that early on at trade shows. I think most people would see how it worked right away once they played, but some people get in and play and say, 'I don't see how it's synchronized to the music.' We'd be in there clapping and stamping our feet."

Another worthwhile idea was thorough playtesting, and not just at conventions. The value of seeing how new players react to a game repeatedly over the course of its development is impossible to overstate. "My wife did a lot on it before anyone else," Dylan says. "Toward the tail end she was working at Microsoft as a usability engineer in the Xbox group and so one night she comes home and says, 'You should probably usability-test your game.' 'Oh, yeah. That's a good idea.' We just hired friends and different people to play it and watch them play, and [we would] not talk. See where they get hung up. That is so hard. Watching people play your game that you think is almost there and you discover that you're not even close."

"I'll always connect Audiosurf to the voluptuous hillsides produced by Wuthering Heights, specifically the swell into the orgasmic walls of red. A decade on, I still shiver."—Kieron Gillen, former PC Gamer editor and Audiosurf leaderboard champ

Going ninja 

One of the ways Audiosurf began to differ from Tune Racer was that it wasn't just about avoiding obstacles. It stopped being a game about weaving between blocks and became a game about collecting them, matching three of a kind into the grid at the bottom of the screen. "Through that usability testing that my wife and I did, we discovered that that was really hard to teach," Dylan says. "It was hard enough explaining to people that you use your own music, that was foreign, then this other thing where you're playing a match-3 game on this racetrack to music, it was too much to teach."

Our timezones were so different that we'd have a call at midnight and tell them what we thought about the last batch of stuff and what we wanted the next day

Dylan Fitterer

The optional mono mode was the solution. It simplified things by reducing the blocks to two varieties, one to collect and one to dodge. "I thought that would just be a stepping stone or maybe just a tutorial mode and then that ended up being super popular." Players wanted it to be more than just an introductory way of playing, so Dylan created 'ninja mono' as the hardcore variant, and it became the way most players experienced Audiosurf.

The Fitterers were helped across the finish line by several contractors, including artist Goran Delic who drew characters like the ninja for the select screen, and Paladin Studios, who built various 3D assets. "They did the vehicles and the geometry that's alongside the track and the squid that's at the end," Dylan says. "That was a week or two weeks of work, right before launch. That was a lot of fun. Our timezones were so different that we'd have a call at midnight and tell them what we thought about the last batch of stuff and what we wanted the next day and we'd get up in the morning and check it out and put new stuff in the game." 

And finally, there was Valve. Their involvement went beyond just putting Audiosurf on Steam—it was the first third-party game given access to Steamworks, the full suite of tools Valve's games use for everything from leaderboards to achievements. It also shipped with the soundtracks to The Orange Box games packaged in, and selecting certain songs from Portal triggered a "secret level" where you have a portal gun and some of the blocks are companion cubes.

On Audiosurf's release those songs immediately became the most popular on its leaderboards, but competition broke out wherever players found songs that made particularly fun levels. So did arguments about which genres suited it best. "I don't think there is an objective best or anything," Dylan says, although he notes that his preference is for bands like Tool and Nine Inch Nails. "One of the things I like about industrial, Nine Inch Nails kind of stuff is it tends to have very big changes very rapidly, so a slow part, a very intense part, and that creates very cool moments."

Those moments of drama and intensity when everything lights up and the track swoops around at speed are key to the appeal of Audiosurf, and when you find out a song you love hits one of those it's even better. But as well as connecting you with music you're already into, Audiosurf has helped players discover new music. Dylan himself learned a lot about what was popular in 2008. "I was a little behind the times I think. Like Dragonforce, that was huge. 'What is this song everybody's playing?' Podcasts were funny, there were people playing podcasts. I hadn't thought to try that."

The Fitterers followed Audiosurf with a sequel and a VR spin-off called Audioshield. But some day, Dylan says he'd like to go back to bestgameever.com and see what other forgotten treasures it holds. "I still have the domain, I just have this lame little placeholder on there right now. I have that site backed up I keep meaning to get it back online. That'd be fun."

This article is part of the Class of 2008, a series of retrospectives about indie games that were released 10 years ago.

Awesomenauts - the 2D moba - Mitaki
Awesomenauts 4.6: Tinker Time has launched on Steam, including a wide array of balance tweaks and gameplay improvements! A big thanks to everyone who participated in the open beta for this update and shared their thoughts on some of the planned changes.

Please share your thoughts on the update below or on our official forums. We're already working on a hotfix to address some unintended changes and bugs that crept into the release, so please stay tuned on that! This hotfix is slated to release on Friday 20th April, and we'll have patch notes on that when we get closer to its release.

The full patch notes for Awesomenauts 4.6: Tinker Time are included below.

Update 4.6: Tinker Time

Commander Rocket
Currently too safe and very hard to catch, Rocket needs to be easier to punish
  • Rocket Launch, no longer knocks back enemies.
  • Base Health, reduced from 1150 to 1100
Laser Trap is too unreliable, doing either too much damage or none at all. These changes should make its effect more reliable while also making placement a little bit more skillful.
  • Laser Trap, time between damage ticks increased from 0.2 to 0.3.
  • Laser Trap, damage per tick increased from 60 to 90.
  • Laser Trap, rotation speed increased by 50%.
  • Laser Trap, laser length reduced by 10%.
  • Laser Trap, no longer has deployment time.
  • Laser Trap, duration reduced from 4 to 3 seconds.
Some upgrade adjustments based on the above changes. These are intended to keep Rocket brawling closer to his Laser Trap.
  • Profanity filters, now increases trap duration by 2 seconds for 160 solar.
  • Borgo Cigar cutter, CMDR Rocket gets a shield which reduces 30% of the incoming damage as long as he is nearby a deployed laser trap.
This upgrade is still too strong and mandatory
  • Box of Cirean cigars, damage per particle per stage reduced from 20 to 16.
His Rocket Launch no longer deals damage to turrets, but his turret push is still too intense. Adjusting the numbers and making them more consistent.
  • Charged Salvo, damage modifier against droids increased from 75% to 80%
  • Charged Salvo, damage modifier against turrets reduced from 100% to 80%.
This upgrade was a holdover from a time where Rocket’s Laser Trap had a lot more uptime. The intention for this replacement is to enable Rocket to be a bit better at brawling and allowing him to stay a bit closer to the fight
  • Head in Jar, now adds 16% damage to Charged Salvo when firing a single rocket, two stages for 175 solar each.
Part of his safety comes from his relatively high ranged base attack.
  • Charged Salvo, range reduced by 20%.
  • Medal Booster Pack, range increase reduced from 25% to 20%.
Combining Rocket Launch and a full Charged Salvo at melee range provides too much damage, too easily. At the same time we want to stimulate him to get more into the thick of the fight.
  • Rocket Launch, now deals between 150 and 350 damage, depending on how long the rocket has been flying.
  • Mother of Bombs, after using Rocket Launch without hitting an enemy, your next Charged Salvo shot will deal 100 more damage for 170 solar.

Derpl
We consider Derpl a bit too strongly affected by map choice and enemy team choices. Our intention is to weaken him a bit on the maps where he does too well, while also strengthening him against his counters.
  • Siege mode, Derpl is no longer immune to CC during the transformation out of siege mode.
  • Siege mode, Derpl's CC immunity now also works against timeslow effects and cocoons.
  • Combustion lava lamp, size increase reduced from 22% to 18%.
  • Falling acceleration reduced by 20%.
Traps can be very oppressive, maxing out at full 2.4 seconds of no gameplay for the receiving party. Their long lifetime also stimulates camping gameplay.
  • Trap, snare duration reduced from 1.6 to 1.2 seconds
  • Trap, now also slows for 30% for 2.4 seconds. (extenting 1.2 seconds beyond the snare)
  • Trap, base lifetime reduced from 11 to 9 seconds.
  • Empowered Grid, snare increase per stage reduced from 0.4 to 0.3 seconds.
  • Lead casing, the silence now has a fixed duration of 2 seconds.
  • Trap, now charges in the middle of Derpl instead of having an arming time when placed.
  • Trap, deployment time reduced from 0.6 to 0.4 seconds.
Some base attack adjustments to better balance the row and take the above changes into account.
  • Fat Cat, cooldown increased from 4 to 5 seconds, price increased from 185 to 195.
  • Kitty Catsuit, price decreased from 175 to 150 solar per stage.
  • CAT package, price decreased from 175 to 150 solar per stage.
  • Bat Catsuit, now deals 100% increased damage against Nauts who are snared or slowed, no longer works with Fat Cat.
  • Long Cat, now works with Fat Cat.

Dizzy
Dizzy is currently a bit too strong. But she's also very finicky, and has a lot of weak upgrades.
  • Multi Dash, time between dashes increased from 0.3 to 0.4 seconds.
  • Multi Dash, damage per dash increased from 150 to 160.
  • Walkbot Pro, speed up dash reload time by 30% when you are near to enemies.
  • Explosive Clone, cooldown increased from 6 to 7 seconds.
  • Backstage pass, increase the range of your Multi Dash by 50% when you have the maximum amount of dashes charged.
  • Matching Glittery Dungarees, now reduces the cooldown for the next Explosive Clone by 3 seconds when it hits an enemy Awesomenaut.
  • "Purple Prince" lipstick, now also slows enemies when they leave the bubble as well as when they are hit by the explosion.
  • Bubble shot, size increased by 50%.
  • Graffiti artist, price increased from 165 to 190.
  • Tipi teal, merged to one stage of 30% range and speed increase for 140 solar.

Ix
Ix generally still brings too much to the table overall, great displace move, solid heals, invincibility frames, excellent mobility and strong brawling. In order to nudge him more towards his role his brawling should be reduced.
  • Refract, cooldown increased from 9 to 10.
  • Radiate, damage per Scatter reduced from 15 to 12.
  • Mammoth hair scarf, ally speed bonus increased from 12% to 15% per stage.
  • Tree hugger, ally damage boost increased from 12% to 15% per stage.
  • Personality Crystal, range increase reduced from 35% to 30%.

Lonestar
  • Ribbit snail slime, fixed that the healthpack would time out if it fell for too long.
Since these aren’t that much better than regular boots, they also don’t have to cost much more.
  • Rocket boots, solar price reduced from 160 to 140.
  • Base speed, increased by 4%.

Max Focus
This item has its use, but it's too weak and expensive.
  • From pond to podium, merged into one stage which adds 30% range and speed for 200 solar.
The homing upgrade looks cool, but doesn't do much. Here is a replacement proposal.
  • UFO spotted, now gives +50% speed during Scene Illumination for 160 solar.
This upgrade is just a bit too expensive, especially given the next change.
  • Sadak mysteries, price reduced from 195 to 175 solar.
Removing the stacking will reduce the need to combo with Sadak.
  • Brutalities of the Kraken, damage increased from 120 to 135 per stage, no longer stacks with Sadak mysteries.
This item is just a bit too expensive.
  • Rob Bourgogne, price reduced from 180 to 160 per stage.
This item was overnerfed shortly after launch, because the skill was too strong to begin with at the time.
  • Hairy King, size increase increased from 10% to 15%, price increased from 175 to 200 solar.
Some overpriced items.
  • Don Steward, price per stage reduced from 175 to 140 solar.
  • Pete Jennirks, price reduced from 240 to 200 solar.
  • Incriminating dirt, price reduced from 180 to 150 solar.
  • Flying camera, price reduced from 210 to 150 solar.
Meanwhile, this one's underpriced.
  • Hidden microphone, price increased from 170 to 200 solar.
This item is the strongest on the row, it doesn't need to stack further.
  • Galactic police scanner, no longer stacks with incriminating dirt, price increased from 180 to 220 solar.

Nibbs
  • Firebreath, fixed that after being Cocooned by Genji during Firebreath she wouldn't resume after the Cocoon wears off.
Some price adjustments.
  • Skull dunduns, price reduced from 200 to 180.
  • Eye of Coba, price reduced from from 215 to 190.
  • Dragon Speaker Idol, now has two stages of +10% attack speed each, at 125 solar per stage.

Professor Yoolip
Some adjustments to improve the item balance for the gaze row.
  • Beard Trimming Fork, price reduced from 165 to 130 solar.
  • Syrup Pouring Robot, maximum lifesteal increased from 120 to 150 per stage.
Some changes to make Dinos more reliable at base.
  • Summon Robo Dinos, now jump at enemies at base.
  • Summon Robo Dinos, damage per bite reduced from 80 to 75.
Now this upgrade has become useless.
  • Holo Pet Food, now reduces the damage dealt by Nauts who have been bitten by 15% for 1.5 seconds.

Qi'Tara
  • Made Qi'Taras seven star strike visual only in front of Qi'Tara to represent the area where damage was being applied better.
  • Fixed that she couldn’t use Chakram Shift to teleport while using Seven Star Strike when the Salty Seal upgrade was bought.
  • Made Qi'Taras seven star strike visual only in front of Qi'Tara to represent the area where damage was being applied better.
  • Fixed that the Lily of the Isle projectiles would spawn at her feet during Seven Star Strike.
Qi’Tara deals too much damage during Seven Star Strike, and too little outside of it.
  • Seven star strike, attack speed increase reduced from 40% to 30%.
  • Poisonous blade, direct damage increased from 45 to 50.
Her relationship with speed feels disjointed, where attacking slows her down but Seven Star Strike speed her up etc. These changes also tie in with the issue above.
  • Poisonous Blade, removed movement penalty when attacking.
  • Seven Star Strike, removed speed bonus during the ability.
With the changes above, this upgrade has now become useless. This change will make Qi’Tara’s damage output more reliable.
  • Chilasi Chakram, now speeds up the damage over time of Poisonous blade by 20% for 160 solar.
Since the bug was fixed where this upgrade doubled your damage, this upgrade has become too weak
  • Lily of the Isle, projectile speed and range increased by 30%.
Salty Seal makes Qi’Tara almost unstoppable, this change should make counterplay possible again
  • Salty Seal, now activates a shield that blocks 100 damage and provides immunity against slows, stuns, snares, chains, gravity and time warps as long as it’s active.
Other tweaks and adjustments.
  • Seven star strike, now also gives a 10% lifesteal effect.
  • Baby plumbin oil, additional lifesteal reduced from 30% to 15% for 175 solar.
  • Rakki Comb, merged to one stage which adds 200% damage vs. droids for 155 solar.

Raelynn
  • Iron Rifle, fixed that the shield didn’t last long enough to protect the entire charge duration.

Rocco
  • Birdseed donuts, cooldown reduction when hit increased from 2 to 4 seconds, duration increase increased from 1 to 2 seconds.

Scoop
His base attack is a bit too weak in general
  • Sword Strike, Slash damage increased from 100 to 105, Cleave lifesteal increased from 20% to 30%.
  • Banner of the Triple Scoop, price per stage reduced from 130 to 100.
  • Halberd of Justice, bonus damage reduced from 25% to 22%.
  • Titanium Coneshield, price increased from 130 to 150 solar per stage.
Other tweaks and adjustments
  • Brutally Whipped Cream, price reduced from 200 to 180 per stage.

Sentry
  • Fixed that Sentry’s Beacon no longer emitted a phone interference sound.
  • Fixed that Starstorm statue didn't affect Bug detector.
Reducing his efficiency of laying down mines in choke-points which has little to no counter-play.
  • Mines, damage while stationary reduced from 80 to 70.
With this change in mind, a counter-buff to help him land reliable damage output in close ranged scenarios.
  • Mines, damage on direct hit increased from 80 to 90.
  • Projectile speed of mines increased by 15%.
Camouflage tent is currently emphasizing passive play. This change will reward aggressive use of his AA by increasing his chase potency and reliability.
  • Camouflage tent, now increases projectile speed and range by 18%, one stage for 175 solar.
Drive-over skulls is also providing a lot of easy chip damage and can be replaced with a more active timing based auto-attack.
  • Drive-over skulls, now deals +75% direct damage when not firing for 1.5s.
Currently Black Hole Sun feels inconsistent and very hard to avoid, and if avoided it lingers for a whole 1.5s. This is an attempt at making BHS a more reliable ability and feel more fair on both ends. Starting with rewarding precision and aim on Sentry's end while allowing enemies to dodge the skill easier.
  • Black Hole Sun, projectile distance increased by 10%.
  • Black Hole Sun, projectile speed increased by 10%.
  • Black Hole Sun, size of black hole reduced by 18%.
The next set of changes are both aimed at compensating for the size reduction but also to reduce the duration of BHS.
  • Black Hole Sun, minimum gravity increased by 8%.
  • Black Hole Sun, maximum gravity increased by 5%.
  • Black Hole Sun, duration of black hole reduced from 1.5s to 1.2s.
With these changes aside, his shield charging up also adds up a lot of time where he's difficult to punish. Reducing his shield duration both allows him for using his black hole quicker, while also being vulnerable faster.
  • Shield duration reduced from 2s to 1.5s.
With less up-time of his shields, his base shield scaling could be increased to fulfill his tanky role. This allows him to tank a little extra in fights and reward aggressive play.
  • Black Hole Sun, Base shield increased from 20% to 25%.
  • Microfilm, shielding reduced from 10% to 8%, price reduced to 140 solar per stage.
Some Sentry's just leave their beacon sitting somewhere in order to reveal or permanently put pressure on an area.
  • Teleport Beacon, times out after 45 seconds.

Skree
  • Made separate spawnpoints for Sawblade and Spare blade, and moved them apart a little.
  • Sawblade, now deals direct damage instead of damage over time.

Smiles
Smiles has been overnerfed in the last few updates.
  • Base health, increased from 1550 to 1650.
  • Trapper’s hook, cooldown reduced from 10 to 8 seconds.
  • Bush fire, range increased by 25%.

Swiggins
  • Poolboy, price reduced from 240 to 210 solar.

Yuri
  • Chrono Rift, cooldown reduction per stage reduced from 2.5 to 2 seconds.
  • Uranium spikes, price increased from 125 to 150 per stage.

Awesomenauts - the 2D moba - Mitaki
Get ready! Awesomenauts 4.6: Tinker Time will release on Steam this Wednesday!

The upcoming update includes a lot of balance tweaks to Derpl Zork, Qi'Tara, Commander Rocket, Dizzy, Sentry X-58, and others, as well as a number of quality of life changes.

Thanks to everyone who helped out during the Beta and shared feedback. For launch celebrations, a discussion of the changes included in the update, and some games, tune in to the Streamisho this Wednesday at 17:00 EU / 16:00 UK / 11AM ET / 8AM PT over at Twitch.TV/RonimoGames!
Terraria

Terraria spin-off Otherworld has been cancelled three years after it was announced.

Terraria: Otherworld was announced in February 2015 as a spin-off from the hugely popular Terraria series. It was intended to task players with purifying the world of the Corruption by finding and activating purifying towers that push back the spread. The idea was that it would include more strategy and RPG elements, such as a new tower defense mechanic, as well as a skill tree.

A year ago, Terraria owner Re-Logic rebooted Otherworld after dumping Dutch developer Engine Software in favour of Pipeworks, a studio that did Terraria re-write work on console and mobile. This after what sounded like a troubled development.

Read more…

Terraria

Terraria: Otherworld has had a rough old time since developer Re-Logic announced it in 2015. A year later it was revamped, and last year co-developer Engine Software was dropped from the project. So it's not entirely surprising that the game—which was a more focused, strategic spin-off of Terraria—has now been cancelled.

In a blog post, Re-Logic explained that Otherworld was a long way behind schedule, and still far short of the game the team wanted it to be. "Taking the massive amount of work that would be remaining to complete along with the extensive time it would take to get that done, and how that would greatly interfere with the pursuit of other projects on behalf of Re-Logic, it becomes clear that this leaves things in a very undesirable state," it said.

"At some point, we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that Otherworld simply is never going to reach its potential in any sort of reasonable time or fashion."

It admitted that it shouldn't have announced the project at such an early stage, and that it will only talk about games "in which we are fully confident in regards to timing" in the future. It also said it was a mistake to partly outsource development to another team, and that future projects are likely to be kept in-house.

While Otherworld will never see the light of day, some of its best ideas will make it into the studio's future games, Re-Logic said. Finally, it said that the cancellation will not impact the active development of Terraria, which continues as planned.

Terraria - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Terraria

Today, Terraria developers Re-Logic have announced that they’re pulling the plug on Terraria: Otherworld. First unveiled three years ago, it promised a more adventure-focused spin on the platforming/building sandbox mega-hit Terraria, with more of a focus on fighting, defending your bases, and navigating complex environments. The project has looked a bit wonky for some time now, and last year development duties changed hands, but it’s still sad to see it canned.

(more…)

Dear Esther

The Chinese Room cofounder and composer Jessica Curry summarises her initial pitch for a live performance of Dear Esther in a typically humorous manner: "I've had this possibly really bad and commercially unviable idea—how would you feel about it?!" She was speaking with the Barbican's Contemporary Music Programmer, Chris Sharp.

The idea came during a Film, Archive and Music Lab (FAMLAB) week Curry was attending. "They were talking about composers and how they work with silent film in terms of putting that into a concert experience," she says. She began to ponder that in relation to her expertise in videogame music.

Sharp has previously summed up the Barbican’s work as ‘Slightly Insane Ideas Made Reality’, so Curry’s proposal would seem a perfect fit for that remit. "They were amazing from start to finish," she says of the Barbican. "They were really creatively on board with it but also incredibly practical, because what we quickly discovered is that it was technically really challenging." 

One of the key challenges was that the live performance would require Dear Esther to be rebuilt. The most obvious reasons are that, for a live show with live narration and music, the existing music and narration needed to be stripped from the game. "I thought it can’t be that hard but you know what it’s like with game development—you change one thing and everything starts crashing around you!" says Curry. The game was five years old by then and The Chinese Room had to relearn the processes and idiosyncracies of the original in order to tweak it. "The QA involved in that was massive because so many dependencies had changed," explains Curry.

Rewired

The conductor and actor also needed the game to provide cues for the different pieces of music or segments of script required. That meant re-evaluating how the tripwires in the game—the triggers for things like segments of dialogue—worked. In the original game the idea is that you get a different experience each time you play because there are a huge number of possible permutations. 

That’s fine when you have code handling those responses. When it’s a human on stage the limitations are different. Fellow Chinese Room cofounder Dan Pinchbeck thus needed to create a version of the script which catered to the limits of a human performer and to the fact that attendees would likely only attend one performance. 

I ask about the logistics of the tripwires given you’d need to factor in a few extra seconds for a human to respond to a prompt from the game. "Now you’re beginning to understand the fresh hell I led everybody into!" laughs Curry.

It wasn’t just figuring out cues and removing elements of audio. Invisible walls had to be added a week before the initial show to prevent the player falling off cliffs during a performance. There was also a long discussion about whether to keep or remove the game’s loading screens.

Curry tells me it was a conscious choice to leave the loading screens in. The idea was "to not apologise for it being a game" and instead to celebrate it. That’s how it worked for me, but others found it jarring. It’s a peculiarly technological moment in a very human performance. 

In general, decisions about what to change and how were governed by whether they helped create a live version of the existing game experience rather than a separate, perhaps more theatrical, entity.

That said, in game form Curry had been able to exert absolute control over how Dear Esther sounded at any given point. As a live performance, she had to figure out how to separate out the elements so they still worked cohesively but could be differentiated by the listeners. Each venue also introduced differences to the sound and the team had mere hours to figure out how to adapt each night. 

Having an experienced crew helped, as did a sound engineer with both live expertise and a more detached perspective: "Sometimes, because I knew the soundtrack so well in my head it was almost like I couldn’t hear a new version of it," Curry says.   

Centre stage

The human player is another performance element which has changed over the tour. By the final UK date the PC monitors had gone from being side-on to facing the audience and the player was now lit in the same manner as the musicians. Curry and the team are still tinkering with that presentation for the international dates.

Live performance also introduces the possibility that part of the show will break. As a result there are two projectors and two computers in place, plus a screenshot to cut to in the event of some tech failure and emergency music specifically written by Curry to cover downtime. 

Stresses aside, the resulting Dear Esther tour has been a rewarding and rejuvenating experience for Curry. The close-knit team offered a protective, nurturing environment, and the instant positive feedback of a live audience enthralled by her work has been a delight. 

Whether the success here is transferrable to other live games events is a difficult question. Dear Esther is about 75 minutes long, was made on a tight budget with one narrator and few musicians, and is the product of a studio that’s interested in removing traditional ‘play’ elements from games. It’s suited to a live show in ways that hundred-hour epics with action sequences and full orchestral scores aren’t. Regardless, Dear Esther’s live tour was a technologically fascinating and emotionally rewarding experience. 

Mark of the Ninja

Mark of the Ninja: Remastered will freshen up one of our all-time favorite stealth games later this year, developer Klei Entertainment announced. 

A standout even among Klei Entertainment's sterling repertoire, Mark of the Ninja originally released in 2012, and while its cartoony art has aged well, Klei reckons it could do with a tune-up. So for the remaster, they're targeting "fully redone 4K visuals for both gameplay and cutscenes along with enhanced audio and new particle effects."

The remaster will also come with the content from Mark of the Ninja's Special Edition DLC. That includes a new level, two new items, a suite of non-lethal takedowns, and a heaping helping of developer commentary. 

Klei hasn't shared much else on the remaster, but in a follow-up tweet, the studio did note they're "working out reward paths for existing players depending on if they own the regular games vs also owning the special edition." So it's possible existing Mark of the Ninja owners will receive some sort of discount or in-game compensation. 

Thanks, RockPaperShotgun

Awesomenauts - the 2D moba - Mitaki

Hey everyone, we just released an update for the Awesomenauts 4.6: Tinker Time beta! Catch the full patch notes for this Beta compared to the current live version below.

Some of the important changes in this Beta compared to the previous Beta is that Commander Rocket no longer resets the charges on his Salvo when using Rocket Launch, some additional tweaks to Derpl and Sentry, and further changes to Professor M. Yoolip!

Please share your feedback on our forums!


Commander Rocket
Currently too safe and very hard to catch, Rocket needs to be easier to punish
  • Rocket Launch, no longer knocks back enemies.
  • Base Health, reduced from 1150 to 1100
Laser Trap is too unreliable, doing either too much damage or none at all. These changes should make its effect more reliable while also making placement a little bit more skillful.
  • Laser Trap, time between damage ticks increased from 0.2 to 0.3.
  • Laser Trap, damage per tick increased from 60 to 90.
  • Laser Trap, rotation speed increased by 50%.
  • Laser Trap, laser length reduced by 10%.
  • Laser Trap, no longer has deployment time.
  • Laser Trap, duration reduced from 4 to 3 seconds.
Some upgrade adjustments based on the above changes. These are intended to keep Rocket brawling closer to his Laser Trap.
  • Profanity filters, now increases trap duration by 2 seconds for 160 solar.
  • Borgo Cigar cutter, CMDR Rocket gets a shield which reduces 30% of the incoming damage as long as he is nearby a deployed laser trap.
This upgrade is still too strong and mandatory
  • Box of Cirean cigars, damage per particle per stage reduced from 20 to 16.
His Rocket Launch no longer deals damage to turrets, but his turret push is still too intense. Adjusting the numbers and making them more consistent.
  • Charged Salvo, damage modifier against droids increased from 75% to 80%
  • Charged Salvo, damage modifier against turrets reduced from 100% to 80%.
This upgrade was a holdover from a time where Rocket’s Laser Trap had a lot more uptime. The intention for this replacement is to enable Rocket to be a bit better at brawling and allowing him to stay a bit closer to the fight
  • Head in Jar, now adds 16% damage to Charged Salvo when firing a single rocket, two stages for 175 solar each.
Part of his safety comes from his relatively high ranged base attack.
  • Charged Salvo, range reduced by 20%.
  • Medal Booster Pack, range increase reduced from 25% to 20%.
Combining Rocket Launch and a full Charged Salvo at melee range provides too much damage, too easily. At the same time we want to stimulate him to get more into the thick of the fight.
  • Rocket Launch, now deals between 150 and 350 damage, depending on how long the rocket has been flying.
  • Mother of Bombs, after using Rocket Launch without hitting an enemy, your next Charged Salvo shot will deal 100 more damage for 170 solar.


Derpl
Considered too strong specifically on Ribbit and Starstorm, these tweaks attempt to adjust him without affecting his general performance.
  • Siege mode, Derpl is no longer immune to CC during the transformation out of siege mode.
  • Combustion lava lamp, size increase reduced from 22% to 18%.
  • Falling acceleration reduced by 20%.
Traps can be very oppressive, maxing out at full 2.4 seconds of no gameplay for the receiving party. Their long lifetime also stimulates camping gameplay.
  • Trap, snare duration reduced from 1.6 to 1.2 seconds
  • Trap, now also slows for 25% for 2.4 seconds. (extenting 1.2 seconds beyond the snare)
  • Trap, base lifetime reduced from 11 to 9 seconds.
  • Empowered Grid, snare increase per stage reduced from 0.4 to 0.3 seconds.
  • Lead casing, the silence now has a fixed duration of 2.4 seconds.
  • Trap, now charges in the middle of Derpl instead of having an arming time when placed.
Some base attack adjustments to better balance the row and take the above changes into account.
  • Fat Cat, cooldown increased from 4 to 5 seconds, price increased from 185 to 195.
  • Kitty Catsuit, price decreased from 175 to 150 solar per stage.
  • CAT package, price decreased from 175 to 150 solar per stage.
  • Bat Catsuit, now deals 100% increased damage against Nauts who are snared or slowed, no longer works with Fat Cat.
  • Long Cat, now works with Fat Cat.


Dizzy
Dizzy is currently a bit too strong. But she's also very finicky, and has a lot of weak upgrades.
  • Multi Dash, time between dashes increased from 0.3 to 0.4 seconds.
  • Multi Dash, damage per dash increased from 150 to 160.
  • Walkbot Pro, speed up dash reload time by 30% when you are near to enemies.
  • Explosive Clone, cooldown increased from 6 to 7 seconds.
  • Backstage pass, increase the range of your Multi Dash by 25% when you have the maximum amount of dashes charged.
  • Matching Glittery Dungarees, now reduces the cooldown for the next Explosive Clone by 3 seconds when it hits an enemy Awesomenaut.
  • "Purple Prince" lipstick, now also slows enemies when they leave the bubble as well as when they are hit by the explosion.
  • Bubble shot, size increased by 50%.
  • Graffiti artist, price increased from 165 to 190.
  • Tipi teal, merged to one stage of 30% range and speed increase for 140 solar.

Ix
Ix generally still brings too much to the table overall, great displace move, solid heals, invincibility frames, excellent mobility and strong brawling. In order to nudge him more towards his role his brawling should be reduced.
  • Refract, cooldown increased from 9 to 10.
  • Radiate, damage per Scatter reduced from 15 to 12.
  • Mammoth hair scarf, ally speed bonus increased from 12% to 15% per stage.
  • Tree hugger, ally damage boost increased from 12% to 15% per stage.
  • Personality Crystal, range increase reduced from 35% to 30%.


Lonestar
  • Ribbit snail slime, fixed that the healthpack would time out if it fell for too long.
Since these aren’t that much better than regular boots, they also don’t have to cost much more.
  • Rocket boots, solar price reduced from 160 to 140.
  • Base speed, increased by 4%.


Max Focus
This item has its use, but it's too weak and expensive.
  • From pond to podium, merged into one stage which adds 30% range and speed for 200 solar.
The homing upgrade looks cool, but doesn't do much. Here is a replacement proposal.
  • UFO spotted, now gives +50% speed during Scene Illumination for 160 solar.
This upgrade is just a bit too expensive, especially given the next change.
  • Sadak mysteries, price reduced from 195 to 175 solar.
Removing the stacking will reduce the need to combo with Sadak.
  • Brutalities of the Kraken, damage increased from 120 to 135 per stage, no longer stacks with Sadak mysteries.
This item is just a bit too expensive.
  • Rob Bourgogne, price reduced from 180 to 160 per stage.
This item was overnerfed shortly after launch, because the skill was too strong to begin with at the time.
  • Hairy King, size increase increased from 10% to 15%, price increased from 175 to 200 solar.
Some overpriced items.
  • Don Steward, price per stage reduced from 175 to 140 solar.
  • Pete Jennirks, price reduced from 240 to 200 solar.
  • Incriminating dirt, price reduced from 180 to 150 solar.
  • Flying camera, price reduced from 210 to 150 solar.
Meanwhile, this one's underpriced.
  • Hidden microphone, price increased from 170 to 200 solar.
This item is the strongest on the row, it doesn't need to stack further.
  • Galactic police scanner, no longer stacks with incriminating dirt, price increased from 180 to 220 solar.


Nibbs
  • Firebreath, fixed that after being Cocooned by Genji during Firebreath she wouldn't resume after the Cocoon wears off.
Some price adjustments.
  • Skull dunduns, price reduced from 200 to 180.
  • Eye of Coba, price reduced from from 215 to 190.
  • Dragon Speaker Idol, now has two stages of +10% attack speed each, at 150 solar per stage.


Professor Milton Yoolip
Some adjustments to improve the item balance for the gaze row.
  • Beard Trimming Fork, price reduced from 165 to 130 solar.
  • Syrup Pouring Robot, maximum lifesteal increased from 120 to 150 per stage.
Some changes to make Dinos more reliable at base.
  • Summon Robo Dinos, now jump at enemies at base.
  • Summon Robo Dinos, damage per bite reduced from 80 to 75.
Now this upgrade has become useless.
  • Holo Pet Food, now reduces the damage dealt by Nauts who have been bitten by 15% for 1.5 seconds.

Qi’Tara
  • Made Qi'Taras seven star strike visual only in front of Qi'Tara to represent the area where damage was being applied better.
  • Fixed that she couldn’t use Chakram Shift to teleport while using Seven Star Strike when the Salty Seal upgrade was bought.
  • Made Qi'Taras seven star strike visual only in front of Qi'Tara to represent the area where damage was being applied better.
  • Fixed that the Lily of the Isle projectiles would spawn at her feet during Seven Star Strike.
Qi’Tara deals too much damage during Seven Star Strike, and too little outside of it.
  • Seven star strike, attack speed increase reduced from 40% to 30%.
  • Poisonous blade, direct damage increased from 45 to 50.
Her relationship with speed feels disjointed, where attacking slows her down but Seven Star Strike speed her up etc. These changes also tie in with the issue above.
  • Poisonous Blade, removed movement penalty when attacking.
  • Seven Star Strike, removed speed bonus during the ability.
With the changes above, this upgrade has now become useless. This change will make Qi’Tara’s damage output more reliable.
  • Chilasi Chakram, now speeds up the damage over time of Poisonous blade by 20% for 160 solar.
Since the bug was fixed where this upgrade doubled your damage, this upgrade has become too weak
  • Lily of the Isle, projectile speed and range increased by 30%.
Salty Seal makes Qi’Tara almost unstoppable, this change should make counterplay possible again
  • Salty Seal, now cleanses all slows, snares and chains at the start of Seven Star Strike.
  • Salty Seal, now activates a shield that blocks 100 damage and provides immunity against slows, stuns, snares, chains, gravity and time warps as long as it’s active.
Other tweaks and adjustments.
  • Seven star strike, now also gives a 10% lifesteal effect.
  • Baby plumbin oil, additional lifesteal reduced from 30% to 15% for 175 solar.
  • Rakki Comb, merged to one stage which adds 200% damage vs. droids for 155 solar.


Raelynn
  • Iron Rifle, fixed that the shield didn’t last long enough to protect the entire charge duration.
This weak upgrade has some heavy competition on the row.
  • Monkey hand, range increase increased from 25% to 40%.


Rocco
  • Birdseed donuts, cooldown reduction when hit increased from 2 to 4 seconds, duration increase increased from 1 to 2 seconds.


Scoop
His base attack is a bit too weak in general
  • Sword Strike, Slash damage increased from 100 to 105, Cleave lifesteal increased from 20% to 30%.
  • Banner of the Triple Scoop, price per stage reduced from 130 to 100.
  • Halberd of Justice, bonus damage reduced from 25% to 22%.
  • Titanium Coneshield, price increased from 130 to 150 solar per stage.
Other tweaks and adjustments
  • Brutally Whipped Cream, price reduced from 200 to 180 per stage.


Sentry
  • Fixed that Sentry’s Beacon no longer emitted a phone interference sound.
  • Fixed that Starstorm statue didn't affect Bug detector.
Reducing his efficiency of laying down mines in choke-points which has little to no counter-play.
  • Mines, damage while stationary reduced from 80 to 70.
With this change in mind, a counter-buff to help him land reliable damage output in close ranged scenarios.
  • Mines, damage on direct hit increased from 80 to 90.
  • Projectile speed of mines increased by 15%.
Camouflage tent is currently emphasizing passive play. This change will reward aggressive use of his AA by increasing his chase potency and reliability.
  • Camouflage tent, now increases projectile speed and range by 15%, one stage for 175 solar.
Drive-over skulls is also providing a lot of easy chip damage and can be replaced with a more active timing based auto-attack.
  • Drive-over skulls, now deals +75% direct damage when not firing for 1.5s.
Currently Black Hole Sun feels inconsistent and very hard to avoid, and if avoided it lingers for a whole 1.5s. This is an attempt at making BHS a more reliable ability and feel more fair on both ends. Starting with rewarding precision and aim on Sentry's end while allowing enemies to dodge the skill easier.
  • Black Hole Sun, projectile distance increased by 10%.
  • Black Hole Sun, projectile speed increased by 10%.
  • Black Hole Sun, size of black hole reduced by 15%.
The next set of changes are both aimed at compensating for the size reduction but also to reduce the duration of BHS.
  • Black Hole Sun, minimum gravity increased by 8%.
  • Black Hole Sun, maximum gravity increased by 5%.
  • Black Hole Sun, duration of black hole reduced from 1.5s to 1.2s.
With these changes aside, his shield charging up also adds up a lot of time where he's difficult to punish. Reducing his shield duration both allows him for using his black hole quicker, while also being vulnerable faster.
  • Shield duration reduced from 2s to 1.5s.
With less up-time of his shields, his base shield scaling could be increased to fulfill his tanky role. This allows him to tank a little extra in fights and reward aggressive play.
  • Black Hole Sun, Base shield increased from 20% to 25%.
  • Microfilm, shielding reduced from 10% to 8%, price reduced to 140 solar per stage.
Some Sentry's just leave their beacon sitting somewhere in order to reveal or permanently put pressure on an area.
  • Teleport Beacon, times out after 45 seconds.


Skree
  • Made separate spawnpoints for Sawblade and Spare blade, and moved them apart a little.
  • Sawblade, now deals direct damage instead of damage over time.


Smiles
Smiles has been overnerfed in the last few updates.
  • Base health, increased from 1550 to 1650.
  • Trapper’s hook, cooldown reduced from 10 to 8 seconds.
  • Bush fire, range increased by 25%.


Swiggins
  • Poolboy, price reduced from 240 to 210 solar.


Yuri
  • Uranium spikes, price increased from 125 to 150 per stage.
...

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